FT. MYERS FL - FEBRUARY 22: Tim Beckham #64 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlotte Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Andrew Carraway (2.41), Matthew Moore (2.43), J.J. Hoover (2.79) and Nathan Eovaldi (2.84) are the top starters in the league in terms of ERA. Moore's 103 strikeouts are tops with Wily Peralta (75), Eovaldi (72), Paul Clemens (71), and Patrick Corbin (71) next in line. Moore pitched a no-no this week and is clearly dominating AA hitters. The Rays like to go slow with their pitchers so don't expect to see Moore in Tampa anytime soon.
Paul Goldschmidt continues to out-hit the competition by a wide margin. His 1.106 OPS trounces the next best OPS of 1.009 which belongs to 27 year old Marlins catcher Luke Montz, who has suddenly learned to mash after having an OPS of .603 and .601 the past 2 seasons. Montz's .612 SLG tops both. Personal favorite Ryan Flaherty ranks 3rd with .948 followed by Christian Marrero (.945), Alfredo Silverio (.924) and Scott Van Slyke (.924).
Andrew Carraway – Mariners SP DOB: 09/04/86
Carraway is a bit older than most prospects making a name for themselves in the Southern League but that's not to say he's too old to be considered a prospect. He had a strong pro debut in 2009, going 8-0 with a 2.09 ERA between Short Season A and Low-A. Then in 2010 he moved to the hitters haven that is the California League and allowed a terrible .307 AVG against and a 5.33 ERA. The lone bright spot was that he allowed only 31 walks in 150.1 innings. Despite the lackluster showing in High-A the Mariners bumped him up to AA this year and he is making that look like the right decision. He leads all starters with a 2.41 ERA and has opponents hitting just .212 against him. In 67.1 innings he has struck out 50 and walked 14.
Axelrod is a bit of a late bloomer after starting his pro career as a reliever. 2011 marks the first season where he is spending most of his time as a starter and he is handling the transition with ease. In 9 starts and 2 relief appearances he has a 3.34 ERA in 59.1 innings with 57 K and 14 BB. His strong play led to a AAA promotion this week and he started his new level in style by going 8 innings in his first start without giving up an earned run on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 6. The White Sox are deep in the rotation so if Axelrod were to pitch in Chicago this year it would likely be in the bullpen. However, given his success as a starter he may be in line to compete for a spot in the rotation next spring training should there be an opening.
Many were quick to write off the Rays 2008 #1 overall pick after he produced ho-hum numbers during his first 3 pro seasons. They may have jumped the gun on that one considering he was one of the youngest players at each level he played in. Only 21 this season he is finally coming around and may not be the flop some thought he was. His .309 AVG ranks 12th in the Southern League with the next best 21 year old being Tyler Pastornicky at 23rd. Beckham is hitting .343 in 17 June games and his K/BB ratio has improved each month.
Another prospect that many lost faith in, Vitters is starting to earn back some of the top prospect status he once had. After ranking in Baseball America's top 100, Vitters fell off the list in 2011. Still only 21 he is showing some of the promise that had prospect hounds excited about his bat. He is hitting .288 with only 19 strikeouts in 215 at bats. He still needs to draw more walks with only 8 on the year. Unfortunately for his fantasy stock he appears destined for a switch to first base. In 45 games he has made 13 errors for a .865 FLD% and his range factor has also suffered. If he moves to first base permanently he will need to develop a lot of power if he wants to have any fantasy value. His .177 ISO won't cut it at first.